Where are you in the pecking order in your family?
I am the eldest and I remember that growing up there was a lot of expectation put on me. I rose to it because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. I guess I was eager to please.
But I remember that whenever it came to discipline I was often told ‘you are old enough to know better.’ No matter my age, being the eldest meant being more respnsible from the offset.
I don’t know if my parents put the same expectations on my sister, but I think that she put them on herself. And because of that she worked hard and was a high achiever at school and in her career.
But when it came down to it, she was always the baby of the family and the phrase ‘she’s too young to know any better,’ was offen thrown at me in her defence.
Personality traits associated with birth order is a popular study topic. I have looked at it in a very light hearted fashion to see how my own children fit in with the theories.
Here are some common traits of first, second and third born children. Do you recognise any of them in your own children? Or do you think it’s all a load of rubbish?
First time parents are often anxious and over protective. At the same time they can have high expectations of their offspring. It may not surprise you to hear that first borns often walk and talk before other children. Being more advanced, they are commonly thought of as ‘mini adults’.
I can remember that I couldn’t wait for each stage to come when my first daughter was born. She crawled, walked and talked early and was potty trained before aged two. It seemed like a competition at the time (sounds ridiculously sad looking back though!).
First borns are an only child for a while, having all the attention of both parents. When another baby comes along their world is completely changed. Suddenly they have to compete for their mum and dad’s affections and they have to strive to please.
When the second baby arrives parents tend to be a little more relaxed. You’ve done it before, you’re a bit more clued up this time and you’re not as anxious. But you turn to your older child to help out. Not only are older children more independent, they are reliable too.
The second child may feel as though they are always trying to catch up to their older sibling. But this often leads to them being completely opposite, in order to be noticed.
If a third child comes along however, it can become difficult for the middle child to find his place within the family. Middle children are very adaptable, though. They are often sensitive souls and they are good at negotiating.
My middle daughter could not be more different from her older sister. She is sensitive, hates conflict and is very meek and mild all over. Her older sister is more outgoing but puts a lot of high expectations on herself. She can be very anxious because of this.
The saying that the third child brings himself up is not far off the mark. Third time round you are so relaxed you are horizontal and you’ve got two older children to help you. Either that or you’ve got two other children to look after, so you haven’t got the time to devote completely to the new baby.
But if baby doesn’t get all his attention from you, he will get it from his older siblings. As a result, third born children can grow up expecting to get a lot of things done for them.
The youngest child will feel that everyone in his family is bigger than him. They may feel that they are never taken seriously and are always the butt of jokes. If the first child is a mummy’s girl/boy and the second child sticks to dad like Velcro, who does the third child go for?
It is no surprise that youngest children are often attention seekers or even manipulators. And how are they most likely to get attention? By making people laugh of course! The class clown or the joker of the family.
This is my youngest down to a tee. He is definitely the joker of our family but at the same time he can be impatient and spoiled and likes to get his own way. And at aged five he will still happily let either me or one of his sisters get him dressed on a morning!
I don’t want to pigeon hole my three, but it’s interesting to look at them from this angle. As an eldest child myself, I have been very aware of putting too much responsibility on my first born’s shoulders. It’s difficult sometimes because she is so helpful and has bags of common sense. But I have to remember that the other two are just as capable at doing jobs as she is.
For the last couple of years my husband and I have each had days out with just one of the children. This came about partly through guilt. One day our eldest was complaining because she remembered when she had us all to herself and she was feeling hard done by. We explained to her that the other two had never had that, so she was lucky. But it is difficult for a child to see it that way.
I also realised that I had only been at home on my own with my eldest daughter and my youngest son (because by the time he came along the girls were either at school or preschool). My middle daughter had never had me to herself. Had never had that one on one time with mum. I can’t get that time back, but I can definitely make time for each of them as they grow up.
Spending time with each child I have been surprised by how much they have opened up to me when it has been just the two of us. I found out so much about them. My children are interesting little human beings with their own opinions and ideals. It made me realise that they have been changing before my eyes. They are growing up so fast. I know that they have all loved having this time with us. It reinforced that it is something that should become a permanent fixture in our lives.
I can’t change their birth order, but their personalities are what makes them who they are. There will always be areas that need ironing out. But that’s what parenting is all about. We bring up our children as best we can, leading by example, showing them the right way to behave. That’s our job. It’s a tough one, but it’s the best and most rewarding job of all.